Local Pastors Preaching More in the Texas Conference

By Roy Maynard

More and more, retirees and second-career ministers are stepping in to fill empty local pulpits throughout Texas. As it turns out, there are plenty of Isaiahs here—God’s faithful who say, “here am I, send me.”

“I think when there’s a need, God raises up the people,” says Mary Smith, who is in her fifth year as a local pastor. “We need more pastors than we actually have, and you never know when you’ll get that call to ministry.”

Smith pastors two small churches in East Texas—Deadwood UMC and Galloway UMC. Her husband is also a local pastor, leading the congregation at Tatum United Methodist Church.

“I’m a registered nurse,” Smith explains. “I was at Good Shepherd Hospital in Longview, then I did home health for about 16 years. I retired from nursing about two and a half years ago.”

She felt the need to increase her service in the church. So did her husband Dwain, who had retired from a career in the oil and gas industry.

“My home church is Galloway UMC,” Mary Smith explained. “I grew up in Logansport, Louisiana, got married, we moved some. We were really just going to church off and on a little.”

But God had bigger plans.

“When we moved to Carthage area, we got more active in the Galloway church,” she said. “I became a lay speaker, and that led to the ministry.”

She now divides her time between two communities, both in rural Panola County. Her typical week involves preaching two sermons on Sunday (Deadwood and Galloway are about eight miles apart), along with the weeknight meetings, outreach programs and home and hospital visits that make up a pastor’s duties.

“I had my first funeral on Monday for the Galloway community,” she said.

Ed Fisher Jr. spent his career with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, in the automotive department. He began teaching a Bible study for inmates in the 1980s—and figured that’s the role God had for him.

“I didn’t think I’d ever be a full-time pastor,” said Fisher, who now leads Malakoff UMC. “But here I am. We’re seeing more of this—I think people are answering this call, dropping what they’re doing and following Jesus.”

Like the Smiths, Fisher has plenty of support from the Texas Annual Conference and the United Methodist Church.

“I’m enrolled in what we call the Course of Study,” Rev. Fisher explained. “There’s training and support from the church—and there are always pastors you know who you can call.”

That Course of Study is a five-year program that can be completed in about 80 hours, and can even be done online.

Mary Smith has advice for those who might be open to becoming a local pastor.

“Increase your prayer time, because that is what guides you,” she said. “Be open to God’s direction, and he’ll let you know where He wants you to go.”